A winged, horned devil, a black pedestal, a naked male and female figure, chains, inverted pentagram.
Basic Tarot Story
The Fool comes to the foot of an enormous black mountain where reigns a creature half goat, half god. At his hooves, naked people linked to the god's throne by chains, engage in every indulgence imaginable: sex, drugs, food, gold, drink. The closer the Fool gets, the more he feels his own earthly desires rising in him. Lust, passion, obsession, greed. "I refuse to give into you!" he roars at the Goat god, resisting with all his might. The creature returns a curious look. "All I am doing is bringing out what is already in you," the beast responds. "Such feelings are nothing to fear, nothing to be ashamed of, or even to avoid." The Fool gestures angrily at the chained men and women, "You say that even though they enslaved?" The Goat-god mimics the Fool's gesture. "Take another look."
The Fool does so, and realizes that the chained collars the men and women wear are wide enough for them to easily slip off over their heads. "They can be free if they wish to be," the Goat-god says, "Though you are right. I am the god of your strongest desires. But you see here only those who have allowed their base, bestial desires to control them." At this the Goat-god gestures upward, toward the peak of the mountain. "You do not see those who have allowed their impulses and aspirations to take them up to the top of that mountain. Inhibitions can enslave as easily as excesses. They can keep you from following your passion to the highest heights." The Fool realizes the truth in this, and that he has mistaken the Goat-god. Here he understands now, it is not a creature of evil, but of great power, the lowest and the highest, both of beast and god. Like all power it is frightening, and dangerous...but it is also the key to freedom and transcendence if understood and well used.
Basic Tarot Meaning
Perhaps the most misunderstood of all the major arcana, the Devil is not really "Satan" at all, but Pan the half-goat nature god and/or Dionysius. These are gods of pleasure and abandon, of wild behavior and unbridled desires. With Capricorn as its ruling sign, this is a card about ambitions; it is also synonymous with temptation and addiction. On the flip side, however, the card can be a warning to someone who is too restrained, someone who never allows themselves to get passionate or messy or wild - or ambitious. This, too, is a form of enslavement. As a person, the Devil can stand for a man of money or erotic power, aggressive, controlling, or just persuasive. This is not to say a bad man, but certainly a powerful man who is hard to resist. The important thing is to remind the Querent that any chain is freely worn. In most cases, you are enslaved only because you allow it.
This card explores some very frightening things, things we are taught to view as evil or shameful. Like earthy materialism, sexual desire, valuables, food, drugs. Lack of control, excess, obsession and raw ambition. At its absolute worst, this is either the addict or the stalker, totally obsessed, enslaved. At its best, this is a card about giving into impulse, cutting lose, going for the gold, climbing every mountain. Among all the cards, this is one of the most complex. Interestingly because no other card is so one-sided. Most cards urge balance, unity, restraint, yin-yang. Not this card. Completely tilted toward the masculine, it is a card that revels in extremity. There is a convincing argument that this is the most powerful and dangerous card in the deck. Magically speaking, it is the one card in the deck that holds the secret of how to escape the material and temporal bonds of Earth. It is a very potent and fascinating card.